Tuberculosis (TB for short) is a disease caused by germs that are spread from person to person through the air. TB usually affects the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body such as the brain, kidneys or spine. A person with TB can die if left untreated.
General symptoms of disease caused by tuberculosis include feelings of sickness or weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. Symptoms of tuberculosis in the lungs also include coughing, chest pain and coughing up blood. Symptoms of TB in other parts of the body depend on the area affected by the disease.
A person with TB in the lungs or throat can spread TB germs into the air if you cough, sneeze if you or talk. These microbes can remain airborne for several hours, depending on the type of environment in which they are. People who breathe the air containing TB germs can become infected; This is called latent TB infection.
There is a difference between latent TB infection and TB disease. People with latent TB infection have TB germs in your body but are not sick because the germs are not active. These people have no symptoms and can not spread TB germs to others, but in the future these people can become ill.
They are often prescribed a treatment to prevent getting sick from tuberculosis, while in people with TB disease microbes are active, meaning they are multiplying and are destroying body tissue. Usually, these people have symptoms of tuberculosis. People with TB disease in the lungs or throat can spread itself to other microbes and should be prescribed drugs to treat the disease.
If we have been in contact with a person suffering from tuberculosis should go to the doctor to let us tests. These tests consist of the following: A skin test (skin) and a blood test. Skin test tuberculin Mantoux method is performed by injecting at the bottom of the arm a small amount of fluid called tuberculin. The person who is performing the tuberculin skin test must return to the 48 or 72 hours for a professional will examine the reaction arm. Blood tests to detect tuberculosis measure how the immune system reacts to the germs that cause TB.
The positive result of a test for TB infection only tells that a person has been infected by TB germs. It does not show whether that person has the disease or tuberculosis. To determine whether the person has become ill with tuberculosis, it is necessary to do other tests, such as chest x-ray or sputum culture.
TB can be treated by taking several drugs for a period of 6 to 12 months. It is very important that people end up treating sick and take these medications as directed by the doctor. If the drugs are not taken properly, the microbes that survive may become more resistant to such treatment. Resistant tuberculosis drugs is more difficult and more expensive to treat.
Dr. Alejandro M. Stella Volonte
Medical Specialist in Family and Community Medicine Policlinico San Carlos